Opinion: Don’t get your hopes up, Flashes fans

Lance Lysowski

The story of David versus Goliath is one that is etched into everyone’s mind.

People love hearing of the underdog overcoming all odds to beat the heavily favored opponent.

The site of watching Appalachian State celebrating at midfield after defeating Michigan in 2007’s season opener still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. Ohio State fans salivated watching former Wolverines coach Lloyd Carr walk off his home field a loser against the little-known Mountaineers.

While Buckeye fans have had the pleasure of reminding Michigan fans of losing their No. 5 ranking that season, those rooting against the Crimson Tide tomorrow should not expect to do the same to Alabama fans.

As the Kent State football team prepares to open its season against Alabama tomorrow, every player that’s wearing blue and gold is hoping to repeat David’s defeat over the larger, more skilled Goliath.

The storyline is set up perfectly.

The Flashes’ new coach, Darrell Hazell, is leading Kent State in his first game at the helm. Nick Saban, two-time National Champion and head coach of the Crimson Tide, is a 1973 graduate of Kent State.

With Alabama primed for another Bowl Championship Series season, wouldn’t it be ideal for Saban to fall to his alma mater?

Of course it would. But in a world where Snooki is somehow famous and people continue to wear Crocs, the Flashes are unlikely to make Alabama’s NFL-ready starting lineup play four quarters of football.

Besides having a size disadvantage against the Crimson Tide, Kent State is returning only one starter at linebacker and none at the safety position.

When Alabama junior running back Trent Richardson steps onto Bryant-Denny Stadium’s field, his eyes will light up. And why wouldn’t they?

Yes, the Flashes are not the same lousy football program of the past three decades. But this is Alabama — the No. 2 ranked team in the nation. If they had a returning starter at quarterback, the Crimson Tide would be the head-over-heels favorite to win the BCS National Title in January.

While the Flashes are loaded with depth on the defensive line — highlighted by Roosevelt Nix, defending MAC Defensive Player of the Year — Kent State has too many question marks to be labeled a potential “upset special.”

The one advantage that Hazell has is the element of surprise. Saban and his coaching staff do not have any game tape of the offense the Flashes will run on Saturday. The talent on the offensive side of the ball is relatively the same, but the defense has two new faces at linebacker and two young safeties commanding the field.

The Crimson Tide are not sure if Hazell’s offense will resemble Ohio State’s or offensive coordinator Brian Rock’s scheme that he ran in his time at Western Michigan.

Junior quarterback Spencer Keith will look to win his first out-of-conference game since last season’s home opener against Murray State. Keith has plenty of weapons surrounding him to give defenses a headache, but Alabama’s defense will be unlike any the junior has seen before.

Alabama senior safety Mark Barron is projected to be a first round draft pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, while junior linebacker Donta’ Hightower earned second-team all-Southeastern Conference honors in 2010.

Should the Kent State faithful expect a potential upset Saturday? No chance.

But the game will be a starting point for Hazell and his team for the 2011 season. If the Flashes make it out of Tuscaloosa injury-free and avoid making costly mistakes, there is hope.

The score may not show how hard the team worked once the game ends, but expect Hazell to have Kent State play tough football.

The only direction the program can go is up.

Contact Lance Lysowski at [email protected].